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Victory Mail in World War II

Victory Mail in World War II, on Sarah Sundin's blog

Letters in World War II

During World War II, letters were essential to the health of relationships. Soldiers and sailors who shipped overseas couldn’t make phone calls, and of course, e-mails and text messages hadn’t been invented. That left letters.

The average soldier wrote six letters a week. Those letters took anywhere from 1-4 weeks to cross the ocean to the United States. Each letter received at home assured loved ones that their serviceman was still alive and well when he wrote that letter. And each letter received on the front reminded that serviceman why he was fighting.

US poster, World War II

US poster, World War II

Victory Mail

The US military knew letters from home were the single biggest morale booster, and a force with high morale fights better. However, mail bags took up valuable space on cargo ships and planes. For example, in 1945 the US Army handled over 2 billion pieces of mail.

US poster encouraging use of V-Mail, World War II. Read more: "Victory Mail in World War II" on Sarah Sundin's blog

US poster encouraging use of V-Mail, World War II

 

The solution was Victory Mail, or V-Mail. Letters written on pre-printed forms were photographed and reproduced onto microfilm. The rolls of microfilm were transported overseas, where the letters were printed again at one-quarter size and mailed to their destination.

Kodak advertisement explaining how they provided the key equipment used to reduce V-Mail to 16 mm microfilm for speedy air transport, WWII

Kodak advertisement explaining how they provided the key equipment used to reduce V-Mail to 16 mm microfilm for speedy air transport, WWII

 

V-Mail was never mandatory, but it was successful. A letter on microfilm took up about one-thirty-seventh of the space of the same letter on paper. In the first two years of the program, the military estimated that V-Mail saved room for 5 million pounds of cargo.

US poster promoting use of V-Mail, 1944 (US National Archives: 44-PA-1191)

US poster promoting use of V-Mail, 1944 (US National Archives: 44-PA-1191)

V-Mail Stationery

V-Mail stationery was a single page, printed front and back. The back contained instructions as well as space for return and mailing addresses. The letter was written on the front within the margins, boldly and in dark ink so it would reproduce well. Return and mailing addresses were repeated at the top. Then the form was folded in half, sealed, and sent off. (To send your own V-mail, download the forms, print on the front and back of a single sheet of paper, write your letter, and mail!)

Blank V-Mail form, World War II. Read more: "Victory Mail in World War II" on Sarah Sundin's blog.

Blank V-Mail form

V-Mail envelope, World War II. Read more: "Victory Mail in World War II" on Sarah Sundin's blog.

V-Mail envelope

V-Mail packet, World War II. Read more: "Victory Mail in World War II" on Sarah Sundin's blog.

V-Mail packet with instructions for use

V-Mail Processing

At the V-Mail processing center, each letter was censored and photographed. The original letters were stored until confirmation was received that the shipment had been received—a nice insurance policy in case a cargo ship was sunk by a U-boat or a cargo plane went down in bad weather.

V-Mail had its disadvantages. Letters had to be short. No enclosures were possible. The scent of perfume did not photograph. And lipstick prints gummed up the scanning machines—dubbed the “Scarlet Scourge” by postal workers.

A V-Mail received in California during World War II. Note smaller size in relation to envelope. Read more: "Victory Mail in World War II" on Sarah Sundin's blog

A V-Mail received by my husband’s aunt during World War II. Note smaller size in relation to envelope.

Victory mail and regular letters helped people communicate. The danger of wartime lent urgency to correspondence. No one knew if that letter was the last one they’d write or receive. Couples ofent expressed feelings usually saved for special occasions.

US poster encouraging use of V-Mail, World War II (US National Archives: 44-PA-1191)

US poster encouraging use of V-Mail, World War II (US National Archives: 44-PA-1191)

 

My source for this post was the excellent on-line display on V-Mail at the Smithsonian Postal Museum

US poster promoting V-Mail, WWII (US National Archives: 44-PA-2251B)

US poster promoting V-Mail, WWII (US National Archives: 44-PA-2251B)

4 responses to “Victory Mail in World War II”

  1. […] letter is handwritten on V-Mail stationery. Victory Mail was written on pre-printed forms that were photographed and reproduced onto […]

  2. […] US institutes V-Mail system to microfilm overseas mail and maximize shipping space. (See: “Victory Mail in World War II”) […]

  3. I never knew there were so many posters for V mail. Thanks. This was interesting.

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